On an ice cold night in the Northeast, Dustin Richardson was red hot.
With temperatures at Dodd Stadium in Norwich hovering at a chilly 36 degrees, Richardson whiffed 10 Connecticut Defenders over five innings as the Portland Sea Dogs cruised to a 7-3 victory.
The 24-year-old southpaw fanned the first five batters he faced and didn't allow a hit through four frames. He surrendered a run on two hits and three walks and earned the win in his debut at the Double-A level.
"Despite the cold weather, I felt strong coming out of my warmup," Richardson said. "I had strong location with my fastball, and [catcher John Otness and I] decided it'd be best to work the heater in and out since it was pretty cold out there."
From the start, Richardson worked ahead, using mostly his fastball to paint the first two strikes on either corner. He caught Connecticut leadoff batter Antoan Richardson looking and, ahead in the count to the next two hitters, dropped a sharp breaking ball for a pair of swinging strikeouts.
"It was a lot of pitching off the fastball," Richardson said. "Strike one is an important pitch, and we established that a lot. I don't think I had to shake off a sign from John all night. He was asking for the right pitches at the right times. He's been here a lot longer than me and knows these hitters."
Richardson worked through the third without a strikeout, but picked up two more in the fourth and struck out the side again in the fifth after allowing his only run.
It was the most strikeouts in a game for the Texas Tech University product since fanning 11 Stockton Ports on Aug. 24, 2007 with Class A Advanced Lancaster, where he won all four of his starts and posted a 2.74 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League.
He began the 2007 season with Class A Greenville and whiffed 10 in his second start April 12. He finished his South Atlantic League stint with a 5-7 record and 3.34 ERA in 21 starts.
"I wasn't as nervous as I thought," said Richardson of his Double-A debut. "I had a strong season last year and a good spring camp and I took those positives into my start. In the end, they're all hitters, and you have to trust your stuff to get them out."
Sean Danielson went 4-for-6 with a double and scored twice to pace the offense for the SeaDogs, who ran their season-opening win streak to four games.
Ryan Khoury delivered a run-scoring triple and Tony Granadillo roped an RBI double during a four-run second inning in which Portland sent 10 batters to the plate.
Carlos Sosa scored twice and Travis Ishikawa belted a two-run double in the ninth as the Defenders (3-1) suffered their first loss.
Connecticut starter Joseph Martinez (0-1) was charged with five runs -- three earned -- on six hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings for the loss.